As I Lay Dying Summary

William Faulkner wrote the novel "As I lay dying" in the 1930s. He wrote it in such a way that the story would tell several characters at once.

The Plot

The book consists of 59 chapters, and it is told by 15 different characters. This is the story of the death of Addie Bundren and about how her family tried to translate her desire to be buried in her hometown of Jefferson, Mississippi.

At the very beginning, Addie was alive in the state of death. Addy, her family, neighbors, and acquaintances expect her to die soon. Addie sits by the window and watches as her older son builds her coffin. The rest of the family is on the porch. Her only daughter is next to her. All night after Addie's death there is a heavy rainfall that raises the water level in rivers and bridges are washed away. It is through these bridges that the family will need to cross to get to the city. So, the family began its journey with the unaddressed body of Addie in the coffin. On the way, Anse and five children face various difficulties. Almost twice they will lose the coffin of Addie. The first time they cross the river on a washed bridge. The second time was when the barn, in which Addie's coffin was left for the night.

Finally, nine days later the family finally arrives in Jefferson, where the stench from the coffin is easily noticed by the inhabitants of the city. But on arrival in the city, everyone starts to do their own thing. Dew Dell goes to the pharmacy to get rid the unwanted pregnancy. Everyone forgets that the main purpose of the visit was Addie's funeral. Anse wants to lend shovels to bury her. But this, too, is postponed until later. Because the second son, Darl was arrested for setting fire to a barn and sent to a psychiatric hospital. With Addie only just buried, Anse forces Dewey Dell to give up her money, which he spends on getting "new teeth," and marries the woman from whom he borrowed the spades.

The Main Characters

  • Addie Bundren: The main character, whose death and begins all the actions in the story. She was presented as stubborn, independent and alone in her own way.
  • Anse Bundren: Husband of Addie, that is, a widower. He is the father of almost all children in the family. He was introduced as a simple and very boring person.
  • Cash Bundren: The eldest son. He has a logical mindset, and he is very calm. He prefers to act, not speak.
  • Jewel Bundren: The third son of Addy. He is physically strong and more than once rescues his mother's coffin. At first glance, it may seem that he did not care about his mother. But his actions say the opposite.
  • Dewey Dell Bundren: The only daughter of Addie, who is 17 years old. She is pregnant and is looking for a way to get rid of the pregnancy.
  • Vardaman Bundren: The youngest son. He embodies his mother as a fish. He is very creative and eager to spend time outside of everyone
  • Vernon and Cora Tull: A close neighbors of Bundren family
  • Whitfield: Jewel’s biological father. He is a local minister, he and Addy had a short intrigue to conceive Jewel.
  • Lafe: a farmer who has impregnated Dewey Dell and given her $10 to get an abortion.

The Analysis

After relatively unfulfilled early attempts at poetry and prose, Sherwood Anderson advised Faulkner to concentrate on his "native land." This led to the saga of the Joknapatavf district, partly a true regional story based on Oxford, Mississippi, which merged imperceptibly into a single myth. In 1929 Faulkner begins the saga with Sartoris and continues it in "The Sound and Fury" and " As I lay dying."

“As I lay dying" bears in itself the most vivid evidence of his new style. From long and complex paragraphs, the paragraphs were cut down with a clear and unified plot.

William Cuthbert Faulkner was a Nobel Prize-winning American novelist and short story writer. One of the most influential writers of the twentieth century, his reputation is based mostly on his novels, novellas, and short stories. He was also a published poet and an occasional screenwriter.

The reader can consider 15 different points of view. Each of the storytellers has his own vision and reaction to the events taking place in the novel. Faulkner emphasizes his main theme in that a story is told by many storytellers: each character is alienated from the other. Despite the fact that they have a large family, they almost do not communicate with each other. It is further seen that they cannot even interact with each other. Each character has different guesses about each other and in this regard, there are inexplicable.

The Symbols

Coffin Addie: performance as a physical cargo due to Addi's death.

Fish: Vardaman's vision of his mother. For him, she does not exist after death, as well as during the life.

Water (river): the river is represented as a force that acts against the family of Bundrens like death.

Fire: as a symbol of purification (although he destroys the shed and animals, but does not have time to absorb the coffin.

Tools: personify Cash, because he always works, not just talking.

Roads: The family faces problems on their way and they often have to make decisions.

The Main Idea

Just as "I lay dying" casts doubt on traditional ideas about the meaning of heroism, the novel also complicates the idea of the family. At the beginning of the novel, it seems possible that the Bundren family is a united front, standing together in front of the tragic death of their beloved wife and mother. But having set out on the road, their united front begins to fall apart. The author shows death as a strong force. Addie was dead in the novel but, it is she who moves all living characters here and there. The journey of this family to Jefferson reveals the social beliefs about death and raises the hidden concerns about the truth of human life.


Despite different opinions, critics nevertheless came to the conclusion that William Faulkner is the greatest American science fiction writer. In 1949, William Faulkner was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, after a fruitful career, which included the production of nineteen novels and two volumes of poetry.

Topics for Your Essay

It's no secret that almost every student is obliged to read "As I lay dying" by William Faulkner in the framework of literature class. You can find topics to write your academic assignment right here.

  • What are literary devices used in “As I Lay Dying”?
  • How is it that Darl is the one to explain Addie's death"?
  • How does the text As I Lay Dying show modernism?
  • In As I Lay Dying, why does Jewel only get one chapter?
  • How do you describe Addie Bundren from “As I Lay Dying”?
  • How would you rate the book and why? Give lots of details “As I Lay Dying” by William Faulkner.
  • What are the most prominent social issues in “As I Lay Dying”?